By Josh Brown
TROY — For three-fourths of Saturday’s season opener, it seemed like Troy and Tippecanoe would repeat their last meeting on the Troy Memorial Stadium field and fight to a scoreless tie.
But with all of the chances the Red Devils created, one of the was bound to get by.
And with 16:28 to go in the game, Lexi Polanski finally found a way to get one into the net, converting on a corner kick by Amanda Sauls as the Tippecanoe girls soccer team defeated the Troy Trojans 1-0 Saturday night — the Devils’ first win over the Trojans since 2010.
“That’s the hard part,” Tippecanoe coach Brandon Baker said. “I thought we possessed the ball well, we moved the ball and controlled it better than they did. It was just tough to score it.”
Troy (0-1) had shut out Tippecanoe 3-0 last year, 4-0 in 2012 and 3-0 in 2011, with the scoreless tie sandwiched between those wins in 2013. The last time the Devils scored a goal against Troy was when they won 2-0 in 2010.
But these Devils went to the regional championship game last season, only graduated three players off of that team and have a tough class of youngsters coming up, as well.
“You’ve got to hand it to Tipp. That’s a team that’s going to win a lot of games,” Troy coach Michael Rasey said. “They were a regional finalist a year ago, and a lot of those kids are back.”
Still, Trojan goalkeeper Arianna Garcia made sure Tippecanoe couldn’t do anything with its chances. Though the Devils maintained possession for roughly 30 minutes of the first half and had numerous corner kick attempts, the score remained 0-0 at the half.
Garcia finished the game with 12 saves.
“Overall, our defense did well and Arianna did well,” Rasey said. “She’s an elite-level keeper. As a coach, it always feels good when you have a keeper like that that can keep you in games.”
The Trojans, on the other hand, couldn’t even find a way to test Tippecanoe sophomore keeper Claire Hinkle. Their only chance of the first half came with 32 minutes to play as Kelsey Walters muscled her way between a Red Devil double team for a one-on-one with Hinkle — only to have Hinkle make a play on the ball before she could get a shot off.
Walters also had Troy’s other chance, almost getting free on another breakaway. But Cassidy Wasson caught up from behind and slide-tackled the ball away, preventing a potential go-ahead opportunity for Troy with 26 minutes to play in the game.
“My defense was stellar tonight,” Baker said. “I don’t think we’re going to give up a lot of goals this season. At every position, we’re just so deep. We graduated three kids last year, and we’ve got a lot of kids back that understand the game and understand what it is we want to do. It helps a lot.”
“All summer long, that’s been Kelsey’s deal. This was just the first time anyone’s been able to stop her,” Rasey said. “Tipp has two of the best centerbacks in the area in Wasson and (Alysha) Harmer, and they were able to stop our attacks. All that said, we did have some opportunities to make things happen.”
With 16:28 to go, though, Tippecanoe finally made something happen.
Sauls sent a corner kick into the box — the last of a lengthy series of them during a sustained Devil offensive — only this time Polanski, a sophomore forward, was able to cash in on the back end, putting Tippecanoe up 1-0.
“We told the girls at halftime that we can’t give up so corner kicks,” Rasey said. “The law of averages says that they’ll end up getting one in eventually, and we gave up a lot of corners.”
Troy mounted a counter-offensive right after the goal, but Tippecanoe’s defense withstood it and went right back on the attack, keeping up the pressure until the final buzzer.
“We have a lot of depth this year, and that helps a lot,” Baker said. “With our depth, we’re going to push a lot of teams to the limit, especially at the end of games.”
In the end, it was a hard-fought opening-night game for both teams, who both will now move on to the next tough challenge. Troy remains at home and faces Fairmont Wednesday, the same night Tippecanoe takes on Carroll.
“This game is a great battle every year,” Baker said. “The girls all know each other, and it’s always just a great game.”
“It’s a game with a lot of intensity and emotions, a rivalry game,” Rasey said. “Emotions kind of got the better of some of the girls tonight, there were a lot of fouls. And we had seven or eight girls getting their first varsity experience. We’ve got a lot of room for improvement, and we’ve got to bounce back Wednesday. The GWOC doesn’t allow for nights off.”
* Boys Soccer
Tipp 1, Oakwood 0
OAKWOOD — The Tippecanoe boys soccer team kicked off the new season Saturday on the road, defeating Oakwood 1-0.
The Devils (1-0) travel to Northmont Thursday.
COLDWATER — The Miami East volleyball team finished sixth out of eight teams at the Coldwater Classic Saturday, beginning the season 1-2.
The Vikings lost in three to Fort Loramie to start the day, 25-15, 23-25, 25-22. They then defeated Liberty Benton 25-23, 25-22 but lost in the final round to Ottawa Glandorf 25-15, 19-25, 25-16.
Miami East hosts Troy Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.